Acta Scientiarum
ISSN printed: 1679-9283
ISSN on-line: 1807-863X
Doi: 10.4025/actascibiolsci.v35i3.16138
Mate recognition in Acanthagrion truncatum (Odonata: Coenagrionidae)
Rhainer Guillermo-Ferreira1* and Kleber Del-Claro2
Departamento de Biologia, Faculdade de Filosofia, Ciências e Letras de Ribeirão Preto, Universidade de São Paulo, Av. Bandeirantes, 3900,
14040-901, Ribeirão Preto, São Paulo, Brazil. 2Instituto de Biologia, Universidade Federal de Uberlândia, Uberlândia, Minas Gerais, Brazil.
*Author for correspondence. E-mail: [email protected]
ABSTRACT. Sexual and species recognition, along with sexual color dimorphism, play an important role
in the reproduction of many animal species. In this article, it was investigated if males of the dimorphic
Neotropical damselfly Acanthagrion truncatum are able to recognize mates and differentiate them between
co-specific males and hetero-specific females of sympatric species. The results showed misguided mating
attempts from males towards other males and Homeoura chelifera females. They also seem able to recognize
A. lancea and Telebasis carmesina females as hetero-specifics. This study support the hypothesis that malemale interactions are misdirected sexual behavior and that sympatric morphologically similarspecies may
represent visual interference for mate searching males.
Keywords: damselfly, reproductive behavior, Zygoptera, cerrado.
Reconhecimento sexual em Acanthagrion truncatum (Odonata: Coenagrionidae)
RESUMO. O reconhecimento sexual e específico, juntamente com o dimorfismo sexual na coloração,
desempenham um papel importante na reprodução de muitas espécies de animais. Neste artigo, foi investigado se
os machos da libélula neotropical Acanthagrion truncatum, que apresenta dimorfismo, são capazes de reconhecer
parceiros sexuais e diferenciá-los entre machos e fêmeas co-específicos, bem como fêmeas hetero-específicas de
espécies simpátricas. Os resultados mostraram que há ocorrência de tentativas equivocadas de acasalamento de
machos com outros machos e fêmeas Homeoura chelifera. Eles também parecem capazes de reconhecer fêmeas de
A. lancea e Telebasis carmesina como hetero-específicas. Este estudo suporta a hipótese de que interações entre
machos são comportamentos sexuais equivocados e que espécies simpátricas morfologicamente semelhantes
podem representar interferências visuais em sua procura por parceiros.
Palavras-chave: donzelinha, comportamento reprodutivo, Zygoptera, cerrado.
Sexual color dimorphism (SCD) is common
among animals, resulted from male-male and malefemale interactions to signal the individual sexual
identity (ANDERSSON, 1994). Such dimorphism is
considered to be influenced by means of sexual
selection and male-male competition (DARWIN,
1871; ANDERSSON, 1994), resulting in a crucial part
of animal reproduction: mate recognition.
Coenagrionidae damselflies often exhibit SCD,
usually with bright colored males and cryptic females
(CORBET, 1999). Most of them are not territorial, with
a few exceptions (e.g. GUILLERMO-FERREIRA;
DEL-CLARO 2012) and do not present courtship
behavior. Male-male interactions are considered to be a
mate recognition mistake, because males interact with
other males as if they were females in an attempt to mate
with them. The presence of sympatric coenagrionids
may also result in intense interference visual signals that
may pose another problem for mate-searching males
Acta Scientiarum. Biological Sciences
Thus, in this paper, it was investigated if males of
the coenagrionid Acanthagrion truncatum Selys, 1876
are able to discriminate between co-specific males
and females and hetero-specific females.
Material and methods
Study species
Acanthagrion is a neotropical genus, widespread in
Brazil, where 22 of the 41 described species can be
found. They are common in still waters and ponds,
perching on aquatic vegetation. Acanthagrion truncatum
males present blue-black body coloration, while
females are yellowish-green-black.
Field study
Fieldwork was performed in a pond in the
Ecological Reserve of the Clube de Caça e Pesca
Itororó de Uberlândia, Uberlândia – Southeastern
Brazil (18°57’S; 48°12’12W, see REU; DELCLARO, 2005). In the field, four live individuals of
each tested category (according to species and sex,
Maringá, v. 35, n. 3, p. 451-453, July-Sept., 2013
Guillermo-Ferreira and Del Claro
see below) were tethered to a line and presented to
seven individual A. truncatum males at the pond, they
were allowed to ‘fly’ in front of the males and perch.
This method is widely used with Odonata
(FINCKE, 1994; MILLER; FINCKE, 1999;
The male response was recorded according to three
categories: (1) approach; (2) hover; and (3) grab
tandem-1; assuming that, these categories show a
progressive scale of more intense sexual response.
Males that did not respond (N = 31, 22% of tested
males) were excluded from the analysis. The
following co-specific males and females, and
sympatric Coenagrionidae hetero-specific females
were presented: Acanthagrion lancea Selys, 1876,
Homeoura chelifera Selys, 1876 and Telebasis carmesina
Calvert, 1909. Data were analyzed with Chi-square
tests with Yates correction using the program
Statistica 9® (STATSOFT, 2009).
The results (Table 1) showed that there is no
difference between male response to male and female
co-specifics (Chi-square= 2.403; df = 5; p = 0.3).
The results also showed that males discriminate
between co-specific females and the ones of A. lancea
(Chi-square = 15.013; df = 5; p = 0.005) and
T. carmesina (Chi-square = 15.252; df = 5; p = 0.0004).
Males also discriminated between co-specific males
and females of A. lancea (Chi-square = 10.05; df = 5;
p = 0.02) and T. carmesina (Chi-square = 11.817;
df = 5; p = 0.009). On the other hand, the males did
not discriminate between H. chelifera females and cospecific females (Chi-square = 0.722; df = 5; p = 0.69)
and males (Chi-square = 0.58; df = 5; p = 0.94).
Table 1. Acanthagrion truncatum male (N =109) responses
(approach, hover and grab) to individuals presented to them (cospecific male and female, and hetero-specific females)
Tested species and sex
Acanthagrion truncatum female
Acanthagrion lancea female
Homeoura chelifera female
Telebasis carmesina female
Acanthagrion truncatum male
Approach Hover Grab
N males
The field data showed that A. truncatum males are
able to recognize the females of the congeneric
A. lancea and the ones of T. carmesina as being
different from their mates. However, A. truncatum
males confounded H. chelifera females as being co-specific.
The females of the latter species are blue and probably
resemble A. truncatum males, which are also blue.
Acta Scientiarum. Biological Sciences
Miller and Fincke (2004) indicated that heterospecific females may often be effective signal distracters
for males, generating costs in sterile interactions.
Additionally, these authors show how recognition
among sympatric species may be under the influence
of factors such as time of the day and the color
morphism of each species. Hence, the results
presented here may indicate that the level of heterospecificity in interactions and the level of distraction
imposed by sympatric species depend on the color of
their females, rather than their phylogenetic proximity.
The results also showed that males might have
difficulties in distinguishing between co-specific
males and females, behaving similarly in response to
both. Gorb (1998) found that Coenagrion puella
Linnaeus, 1758 males can distinguish males from
females visually by morphological structures and
coloration pattern. However, other studies have
shown the difficulties males have to identify
females. When searching for mates, males may take
other males for females and try to mate with them
et al., 2005). The results presented here support the
theory that male-male interactions in coenagrionids
are misdirected mating attempts.
Several studies have shown possible causes and
explanations for the failure in mate recognition in
Coenagrionidae. Johnson (1964), for example, stated
that male-male interactions in coenagrionids are a
type of basal territorialism in odonates. However,
this is very unlikely since most coenagrionids are
non territorial and not site attached (CORBET,
1999). Miller and Fincke (1999), on the other hand,
proposed the ‘learned mate recognition’ theory,
which suggests that males must have a number of
successful interactions with receptive co-specific
females to learn how to recognize mates. Sexual
recognition failure also occurs in other Odonata
(e.g. Calopterygidae, KUITUNEN et al. 2012;
Libellulidae, CORBET, 1999; BICK; BICK 1981;
SCHULTZ; SWITZER, 2001; Aeshnidae, HACET,
2010). Recently, evidences have suggested that
learned mate recognition can be a common system
in this group (KUITUNEN et al. 2012), playing an
important role in premating reproductive isolation.
In conclusion, we suggest that hetero-specific and
male-male interactions in A. truncatum are driven by
recognition failure during male mate recognition
learning process.
We thank CAPES and CNPq for financial support.
Maringá, v. 35, n. 3, p. 451-453, July-Sept., 2013
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Received on February 24, 2012.
Accepted on November 5, 2012.
License information: This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the
Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution,
and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Maringá, v. 35, n. 3, p. 451-453, July-Sept., 2013

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